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Seven Growth Hacking Tools For Startup Success If you think growth hacking sounds a lot like run-of-the-mill digital marketing, you'd be right. But the difference lies in one key detail: the operating mindset.

By Ross James

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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

What does every new startup struggle with the most? Even with a waterfall of investments, great product concepts, and beautiful branding, most startups fail because of one reason: they can't get the word out fast enough.

"Growth hacking" was coined by entrepreneur Sean Ellis almost a decade ago. It refers to the rainbow of tactics used to specifically drive traffic to a startup as quickly as possible– without spending too much.

If you think growth hacking sounds a lot like run-of-the-mill digital marketing, you'd be right. But the difference lies in one key detail: the operating mindset.

Traditional marketing is all about juggling as many balls as possible. Internal timelines, melding digital and print, haggling with vendors, yadda, yadda. It's usually focused on selling a tangible product, and fulfilling a dozen different goals and metrics in different areas.

But growth hacking? That's all about, well, growth. Growth hacking emerged from the need to face a digital world with scalable tactics. That often means bringing in as many customers as possible to a startup on a shoestring budget.

Luckily enough, growth hackers use a lot of the same tools as regular digital marketers– but with a new focus. Let's talk about them.

1. SEO You know it; you love it. SEO is the bread and butter for startups. It's the best way to get seen without blasting ads in everyone's faces.

There are a lot of SEO tactics out there, so which work best for growth hacking? The answer is a mix of well-written, organic SEO, and blogger outreach.

First, your site should always adhere to Google's policies and guidelines. That means white hat SEO that is hand-crafted. No plagiarism, no auto-generated content, no keyword stuffing. Growth hackers care about growth above all else, but the black-hat tactics that get you quick numbers at first won't bring sustained success, and can seriously jeopardise the health of your business.

Second, get trusted bloggers to rave about your brand. This builds backlinks (which Google likes) and promotes trust in your company (which customers like).

Related: Eight Black Hat SEO Techniques That Are Killing Your Rankings

2. Google My Business Google My Business (GMB) is the ultimate tool for dominating local searches. GMB is what appears when you search for a local business or something like "restaurants near me." It's a rundown of relevant places in the area.

GMB gives searchers the quick facts. Hours of operation, contact info, address, ratings, and such.

If you have a physical location that sees clients, you need to be on GMB. It's fast, free, and the easiest way to drive growth to your storefront.

3. PPC Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing through Google Ads is a great mechanism for getting your startup in front of your target audience, and garnering the hard data on what works and what doesn't work.

Multivariate testing headlines and wording helps growth hackers make tiny changes that influence huge change. The downside, of course, is that it isn't free. But savvy growth hackers can turn a small PPC investment into explosive traffic.

4. Facebook/Instagram Ads Facebook advertising is nothing new. The power of Facebook still can't be ignored– the social network held a massive 19.6% share of the digital ad market in 2018. Instagram, the other juggernaut, is owned by Facebook.

So how do you hack the largest social media site to bolster growth? Re-marketing.

Re-marketing uses a cookie to show ads to a user wherever across the web they go. Your brand follows people around. That repetition helps break through the noise and build awareness for potential leads.

As for doing so on Facebook or Instagram? Well, as they say, you should fish where the over 2 billion fish are.

5. Email Automation Growth hacking is time-sensitive. Cash-strapped startups need growth fast, so there isn't a lot of time for the team to be wasting. Fortunately, the beauty of automation is here to save the day.

Email is the most valuable way to keep in touch with your customers. Email is engaging for people, especially when the messages are relevant and interesting. Automation means emails can be customized, distributed, and measured on a large scale.

Like with PPC, emails are another medium in which you can see what language attracts customers. You can also make things personal. That can range from using someone's name to adjusting what messages they receive (and in what order).

Email automation is a time- and money-saving measure for growth hackers. It's a way to create an active campaign to reach out to your target audience. It's also crucial for building on relationships with customers, especially in the early stages.

Related: Why Your Business Needs to Invest in Arabic Digital Marketing

6. Content Marketing Content marketing is an art form. Growth hackers have a lot of room for creativity here. This is where eye-catching headlines, good stories, and viral media come into play. Make sure the content is rich, intriguing, and engaging.

Of course, hacking content marketing still requires a focus on growth. Ask yourself questions during the creation process. Why will someone click on this article? How does it relate to your brand? Is this easily shared? Will my audience love this?

7. Marketing Funnels Some of you might remember learning about the sales funnel in school. There's a growth hacking funnel, too.

It's hugely important to know the process your audience takes to convert to customers. The funnel goes like this:

  • Acquisition. People hear your name somewhere, be it from a friend or a blog.

  • Activation. People take the plunge. They sign up for an account; they buy something; they click. Your conversion rate skyrockets.

  • Retention. Getting people to come back for more is the best way to ensure long-term success. This is where the sheer quality of your product ostensibly matters most.

  • Revenue. This is figuring out how to secure the initial cash flow every startup needs to survive.

  • Referral. Your loyal customers tell a friend or ten. This can be encouraged through referral code incentives and the like. Referrals are key to driving future growth.

It's a lot like the traditional marketing funnel. But there's a bigger focus on future growth– and how it's important to always use your current place to springboard to the next.

The Big Picture

Understanding growth hacking requires a paradigm shift away from traditional marketing. It's a raw focus on growth numbers, best for startups getting off the ground.

Growth hacking is what made Airbnb and Facebook the giants they are today. Growth hacking pros know how to leverage technical skills with almost a single-minded ability to focus.

Your startup needs customers to survive. Doesn't it make sense to bring them as quickly and cheaply as possible?

Related: Game On: Growth Hacking Tips From A Dubai-Born Brand That's Going Global

Ross James

Growth Consultant

Ross James is an award winning business growth consultant by day, marketing aficionado by night. From Fortune 500 companies to SMEs, Ross has helped over 100 businesses in the Middle East to accelerate their brand presence and profit online.
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